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Czech president cancels post-election TV appearance over health issues

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By Reuters
Czech president cancels post-election TV appearance over health issues
Czech president cancels post-election TV appearance over health issues   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

PRAGUE – Ailing Czech President Milos Zeman has cancelled a live TV interview planned for Sunday after weekend elections and may also put off a meeting with the prime minister that would start consultations on a new government, his office said on Friday.

His office had earlier announced that Zeman, 77, would forgo the custom of voting publicly this time, instead casting his ballot away from the media gaze at the presidential retreat outside the capital Prague.

Zeman spent eight days in hospital last month with his office saying he was suffering from dehydration and slight exhaustion though no life-threatening condition. He began using a wheelchair earlier this year due to neuropathy in his legs.

His office said Zeman was visited by his doctor on Thursday but gave no specifics on his state of health.

Under the Czech constitution, the president nominates the next prime minister after an election and oversees political party talks aimed at forming a new governing majority.

The central European country goes to the polls on Friday and Saturday to elect a new lower house of parliament.

“We are adjusting the president’s agenda. The key is for the president to gather strength for the post-election negotiations. (He) is not limited in terms of performing his constitutional duties,” Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told CNN Prima News, later confirming those comments to Reuters.

Zeman, an ally of populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis, has said he will appoint the leader of the party with the most votes after the election, even with no majority at hand. This will almost certainly be Babis, whose ANO party is narrowly ahead in opinion polls.

Czech public radio and newspaper denikn.cz reported earlier this week that Zeman’s hospital stay was due to ascites, or fluid collecting in the abdomen, quoting seven unnamed sources. Zeman’s spokesman Ovcacek declined to comment.

The power to appoint the prime minister goes to the speaker of the lower house if the presidency is vacant.